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What to Watch for Tonight on Super Tuesday

Four numbers to pay attention to. And three versions of our possible future.
March 3, 2020
What to Watch for Tonight on Super Tuesday
Presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a rally on March 2, 2020 at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

1. Tonight’s Results

Final polls are coming out and they are . . . wild. Morning Consult, for instance, has Biden back +8 nationally. Data for Progress has released their final state-by-state Super Tuesday poll and it is not great for Bernie. In fact, the numbers show such a big surge for Biden across the board that I’m not sure I believe it.

Here’s the quick rundown in the Data for Progress poll:

  • California: Sanders +7
  • Texas: Biden +2
  • North Carolina: Biden +9
  • Virginia: Biden +15
  • Massachusetts: Warren 28, Sanders 26, Biden 26
  • Colorado: Sanders +14
  • Tennessee: Biden +7
  • Minnesota: Sanders +5 over Biden
  • Alabama: Biden +25
  • Arkansas: Biden +13
  • Oklahoma: Biden +7
  • Maine: Sanders +9
  • Utah: Sanders +6
  • Vermont: Sanders +39

The four races I’ve bolded—California, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Minnesota—are the reasons I don’t buy this poll. Because if that’s what’s really happening out there, then Sanders is toast.

And I don’t think he’s toast.

There are going to be a lot of numbers flying around tonight, so here are some things worth watching out for:

(1) Virginia: If the Biden surge is real, it should show up in Virginia. Virginia is a good, though not great, state for Biden. If he’s doing well, then he’ll do well there. If he’s not doing well in Virginia, then he’s probably having trouble everywhere else.

(2) California: If Bernie romps in California, then we’ll know it early—the way we did with Biden in South Carolina—even if we won’t know the exact delegate allocations until later in the week. Sanders needs a very big win in California to stay on pace and because of early voting, even if Biden is surging, the Golden State is Bernie’s firewall, a place for him to bank enough delegates to hold the lead, no matter what. In order to feel good about his chances, he probably needs to be > +15.

(3) Late deciders: Early voting is an abomination and I hope that anyone who cast a vote for Bloomberg, Klobuchar, or Pete over the last couple weeks has learned their lesson. When we see exit polling, look at how people who decided in the last week and 24 hours broke. This should tell us something about post-South Carolina movement.

(4) Minnesota: If you want to get a data point on how much endorsements matter, have a look at the Klobuchar-Biden numbers in Minnesota tonight. Prior to this week, Klobo had been polling in the high 20s and Biden in the high single-digits. Watch to see how much—if any—of her support gets transferred.

(5) Massachusetts: I have been talked into the idea that Elizabeth Warren makes a lot of sense as a VP pick should Biden win the nomination. But that presupposes her ability to heal the rift between progressives and moderates. If she can’t hold on to progressives in her own back yard, that will be an argument against the idea.

2. Tomorrow’s Future

We genuinely have no idea what the final state of the race will look like tomorrow morning, but I see three possible outcomes. Here they are, in descending order of probability:

(1) Bernie has a sizable lead, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 delegates. In this scenario, Bernie finishes the night somewhere around 580 delegates and Biden near 430. This give Sanders a very real advantage, but not an insurmountable one.

At which point the Democratic party will face a choice: Continue coalescing around Biden on the theory that he has achieved escape velocity and will overtake Sanders by the end of the month.

Or . . .

Bail on Biden and move to Sanders in order to short-circuit the race and avoid a protracted primary fight and the possibility of a brokered convention.

(2) Bernie has a large lead, somewhere near 250 delegates. If this happens, it means that the Biden surge wasn’t a tidal wave and that the consolidation of the field didn’t hurt Bernie. Biden would not be in an impossible position, but that choice for establishment Democrats would be a little easier.

(3) Biden and Bernie are effectively tied. By which I mean that they are within, say, 50 delegates of one another.

This outcoe would mean that Sanders is in a great deal of trouble. Super Tuesday is as good as it gets for Bernie. The field has not yet fully consolidated, he has the maximum available leverage stemming from his fundraising and organization. And he has the most favorable terrain he’ll see: Super progressive California and his New England backyard.

In the unlikely event that Bernie does not leave today with a tangible lead in the delegate count, it would mean that the race is already moving away from him and he would need some exogenous event to change the dynamics and stop Biden.

Again: I view this as a very low-probability outcome. Biden has a traditional political coalition, but Bernie has a movement and as I keep saying, you underestimate movements at your own peril. Bernie has a massive, grassroots organization of volunteers and donors. He has a weaponized troll army on the internet. He even has his own Pravda/Breitbart, with Chapo and Current Affairs and the rest of the New New Left. And lest we forget, he has a concrete, well-articulated vision for the future of America.

You may not like that vision. You may think that it’s more fantasy than vision, with no hope for realization. But that doesn’t negate its existence.

Joe Biden is only selling a restoration of American normalcy. My view all along is that this sort of backward-looking pitch is normally a losing proposition but that the circumstances right now make it perfectly suited to the moment in a way it never would have been before, and probably won’t be again.

We’ll see.

3. Watch Talk

Imagine finding a special edition Seiko Turtle that had been made for McMurdo Station:

The Buy It Now price was rather high for a Seiko 6306 – a tad over $1,000. The 6306 is identical in most ways to the much-loved 6309, but it was made for the Japanese domestic market, and features a Kanji date wheel and hacking movement, so a premium is expected. The description yielded no background information on the marking, which was a simple “MSST1979-80” above the typical “Water 150m Resist” at 6 o’clock. A quick Google search brought up a few forum posts on the “McMurdo Sound Sediment and Tectonic Study.” . . .

“I found it in the North Myrtle Beach area. No name and I’ve owned it for at least a year. I was at a flea market and the seller did not have it for sale. We got to talking about vintage watches and he pulled it out. I made him an offer he could not refuse. It’s run strong ever since I bought it. I’ve gone swimming in it, etc. No issues”

NSFW. Read the whole thing.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.